Transforming Ideas into Reality
Every successful product, service, business or social enterprise begins with one thing: a really good idea. As maker spaces and coding boot camps proliferate around the world, and the rate of change quickens exponentially, now more than ever, a good idea can come from anywhere. Yet, the path from idea to reality requires access to resources that low-income inventors and social entrepreneurs may not always have. That is where we come in.
With assistance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), PA Patent is the only nonprofit statewide legal services program in Pennsylvania providing under-resourced inventors, makers and startups with assistance from volunteer attorneys to prosecute applications for patent protection. Working in collaboration with skilled practitioners from around the Commonwealth, PA Patent strives to foster innovation and ingenuity across a broad array of scientific and technical disciplines by delivering access to critical patenting services to those who could not otherwise afford them. Join the hundreds of inventors and small business owners who have already obtained pro bono legal support through the PA Patent program.
To submit an online application, please follow the link below. For more details on services available, please review the information contained on this page, or contact one of our Legal Services Coordinator staff members today.
Pro Bono Services
Patentability Consultation – PA Patent provides inventors with the opportunity for a one-time consultation with a patent attorney to discuss the patentability of their proposed invention in light of the requirements for patent eligibility and the state of the prior art. Attorneys may, but are not required to, assist clients whose inventions are deemed patentable in filing an application with the USPTO.
Full Service Representation – PA Patent provides inventors with access to volunteer patent practitioners to aid in the preparation, filing and prosecution of an application for patent protection before the USPTO until either the issuance of a final rejection or the granting of a patent by the examiner. Every Full Service patent project requires an initial patent eligibility screening with a PA Patent volunteer prior to the filing of a patent application. Clients may pursue a utility or design patent application, and may file for either provisional or non-provisional patent protection.
Pro Bono Eligibility
Eligibility to receive pro bono legal services through the PA Patent program is based on the following criteria:
Subject Matter – Client must be an independent inventor or small business owner seeking assistance in filing an application for patent protection with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Geography – PVLA’s pro bono patent legal services are offered to clients living or headquartered within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For a complete listing of other regional programs offering pro bono patent assistance by state, please visit the USPTO’s patent pro bono website here.
Financial – In an effort to ensure that our pro bono patent services are provided to those who need them most, PVLA limits pro bono eligibility to clients demonstrating significant financial need. PVLA determines financial need by gathering and reviewing the client’s income and asset information and measuring it against the appropriate financial eligibility threshold. These financial eligibility threshold amounts vary depending on the type of client, as well as the size and composition of the client’s household.
Proof of Concept – PVLA requires PA Patent program applicants to demonstrate that their invention is at the appropriate stage of development for patenting by providing evidence of either a finished working prototype or another proof of concept, such as technical drawings or schematics. NOTE: in order to protect clients from disclosing too much information about their invention, PVLA does not require applicants to divulge information pertaining to the core nature of their product.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Individual Clients: Must demonstrate household income and assets below 300% of the federal poverty line (adjusted based on size and composition of household).
- Small Businesses: Must demonstrate an annual operating budget for the organization under $500k.
An attorney assigned to a client for a “pro bono” project through PVLA will provide legal services to the client on a volunteer basis, and will not charge any attorney’s fees for time spent working on the case by either that attorney or others at their firm. This pro bono service typically also covers minor incidental expenses incurred by the attorney or their firm as a result of representation, such as costs associated with document printing or postage.
However, where the client’s goals for a pro bono project require payment of any significant third-party expenses – such as filing fees, registration fees or court costs – the client will be held responsible for these expenses. Clients should ask their attorney about any anticipated third-party expenses for the project at the initial meeting in order to make a more informed decision about how the representation should proceed.
As a nonprofit legal services organization, PVLA charges a nominal Application Fee to our PA Patent pro bono clients to help support the work that we do and to ensure that our services remain available to the inventor community at large. These fees are adjusted based on the type of client (i.e. individual or organization), as well as the level of service requested. These fees are non-refundable, and are not collected until a client’s eligibility for pro bono service has been confirmed. A breakdown of the various application fees is provided below:
- Patentability Review – $50 per consultation
- Full Service Representation (Individuals) – $75 per representation
- Full Service Representation (Small Businesses) – $175 per representation